Khitai was the mysterious land of the East, home of powerful sorcerers and ancient mysteries. Khitai was a nearly legendary place to the average Hyborian of the West, although the more easterly peoples (such as the Turanians and Vendhyans) maintained considerable commerce with the many kingdoms of Khitai, which dominated most of eastern Hyboria. Khitai’s borders were ill-defined, as no other civilized “kingdom” lay near it. The Khitani themselves marked their western boundary at the Great Wall they built to keep out the Hyrkanian tribesmen and the mountains upon which it was built. This mountain range ran north to the trackless, icy wastes, and south to the Southern Sea. The north-central region of Khitai was marked by the Kara Korum, the harsh Desert of Black Sand that separated the city-states of Khitai’s fertile eastern coast from its arid, western-most settlement of Wan tengri on the slopes of the Mountains of the Night north of the Great Wall.
Over the centuries, the peoples of Khitai merged into a homogeneous race: slender, of medium height, with parchment-yellow skin, almond-shaped eyes, sharp features, high foreheads, and oval faces. Some regional variation existed (Southern Khitani, for example, tended to be shorter and thicker about the waist), but the distinctions were almost invisible to Westerners, though they were very visible to the Khitani. Khitan behavior was wrapped in complex ceremonies. Each member of Khitani society had a place in the structure and codes of behavior of society which must be followed. These codes did not prevent personal initiative. The Khitani believed that those who best obeyed the codes would be rewarded by the gods, a concept they referred to as “obeying the will of Heaven.” From this, they deduced that “the winner was right in the eyes of Heaven,” and this success-oriented approach gives them a penchant for treachery and double-dealing which would cause a Hyborian noble to blanch.
One confusing aspect of these codes of behavior was the extreme politeness of the Khitan demeanor. Most Western traders found this extreme unctuousness irritating, if harmless; successful traders recognized the traps concealed in this veneer of respect and watched their backs.
Khitani law was administered by the king or overlord of each of the individual Khitani city-states, which included Ruo Gen, Shaulun, Shu Chen, Paikang and Wan Tengri in the far west on the edge of the Hyrkanian steppes. The overlord made the laws and often personally judged major criminal cases, although most overlords appointed jurists to try and punish criminals. Fines were common, although for serious crimes or those who upset the status quo, mutilation and death were the usual punishments. Unlike the Hyborian lands, where judges were often subject to financial influence, it was very difficult to bribe a judge in Khitai. On the other hand, a judge was often subject to the political concerns of his clan or faction, and might well ignore the law and the truth to accomplish some “higher” political purpose.
One of the great wonder of the Hyborian Age was the Great Wall of Khitai, built by the Khitani city-states along the edge of the Mountains of the Night in western Khitai that separated Khitai proper from the steppelands of Hyrkania and that land’s fierce nomadic tribesmen. Memories of this Great Wall would survive the last Ice Age to prompt Khitai’s Chinese descendants to pursue a similar strategy to keep the horse nomads of our own era from ransacking their cities.
Just as Stygia had its Black Ring, and Hyperborea its White Hand, the magi of Khitai were bound into a brotherhood of power: the Scarlet Circle. The Circle, like its counterparts in the West, was a hierarchy of dominance. Each wizard was served by those weaker than they, and in turn served those more powerful in the arcane arts. At the pinnacle of this magical pyramid stood the wizard Yah Chieng, ruler of the city-state of Paikang, whose demons, magic and sorceries were feared by all in the East.
Names: Chinese-style names are best for Khitans. Suggestions: (male) Huan, Kun, Li, Rong, Wei, Wu; (female) Chan, Chang, Fang, Feng, Jia, Lei, Shan, Zhi.